By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
SEBRING -- Now that a new three-year teachers contract is signed, Superintendent Howard Friend is looking to curriculum improvements and the finishing touches on the district's $16-million renovation project.
The board approved a three-year pact Wednesday; teachers gave their unanimous approval a day earlier. A tentative agreement was reached Monday after a 14-hour marathon bargaining session that began Sunday. Teachers were prepared to strike at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday if an agreement was not reached.
The new contract is retroactive to Sept. 1, 2001, and extends to Aug. 31, 2004.
Details: Friend said pay increases under the contract of 3 percent the first year, 2.5 percent the second year and 2 percent the third year mean the salary of beginning teachers with a bachelor's degree and no experience are now $23,692, up from $23,002 under the previous agreement.
In the third year of the contract, beginning teachers will receive $24,770, he said.
Teachers with a master's degree and 30 years or more experience now receive $49,808, compared to $47,845 under the previous contract. In the third year of the new contract, the district's most experienced teachers will receive $52,074 annually, he said.
Teachers agreed to increased deductibles on health insurance and prescription coverage and to pay more of their major medical bills. Friend said the total cost of health insurance premiums is $720 per month for each teacher.
He said there were no changes to the teachers' or the board's contributions to teachers pensions.
"From everything I've heard, the teachers are satisfied with the contract, and I know the board is satisfied. We're ready to move forward," Friend said.
Curriculum plans: The superintendent added that teachers are looking at curriculum improvements designed to boost proficiency test scores. He lauded the efforts of teachers and pupils in improving the district's state report card scores released recently.
He said landscaping at the high school that was stopped because of wet weather and various odds and ends at both the elementary and high school buildings are among the tasks to be completed after additions and extensive renovation of the buildings.
He said the building contractor will return this summer for a walk-through of the buildings, routinely scheduled after 11 months of occupancy.